NICOLE SHUBALIS grew up in the Ginger Creek subdivision in Oak Brook with her close-knit Greek family—parents, Tom and Georgia, and sisters, Melissa and Marianna. After attending high school at Downers Grove North High School, Shubalis studied at DePaul University, eventually pursing her passion for cooking, and earning a degree in culinary arts from Le Cordon Bleu. Shubalis has shared her culinary talents at highly acclaimed James Beard Award winning and nominated restaurants Sunda, Frontier, and The Purple Pig. Unfortunately, in 2012 Shubalis’ life took a sharp turn when she became a victim of gun violence and was shot twice—once through each leg. After nearly a decade of living in the city, Shubalis rejoined her family in Oak Brook to recover both physically and emotionally. That setback ultimately pushed her into something that she always wanted to accomplish—starting her own business, Le Koko Cuisine—a personal chef and catering service. “Though the shooting was a horrific moment in my life, I am grateful for how it changed me into the person that I am today. I am a much better version of myself—a woman who values the people around her more and realizes the worth of every moment. It gave me perspective and taught me to appreciate life, my family, and all of the blessings that I have been given,” says Shubalis. When she isn’t in the kitchen, Shubalis enjoys spending time with her nieces and nephew, and two Maltese dogs, practicing hot yoga, gardening, painting, and volunteering with local nonprofit Operation North Pole (ONP). “Each year my sisters and I sponsor a child and their siblings, by fulfilling their personal wish lists. Providing these donations to help expand ONP’s mission for the care of children is incredibly gratifying,” she says. Learn more about Shubalis’ favorites in the country and on the town:
Mantra? “Be curious, not judgmental.” We could all use a little more love in our lives. Best grooming tip? Hydrate, hydrate, and then hydrate some more—and invest in SlipSilk pillowcases. Guilty pleasure? Breakfast for dinner. Favorite foods? Greek and Middle Eastern foods are typically my favorite cuisine. I also love homemade pasta, rustic pizzas with fresh garden basil and oregano, grilled veggies, and fresh lemon juice/zest on everything! Music you love? My playlists tend to be very random—Andrea Bocelli, ’70s’ hits, ’90s alternative, and Queen. Best advice ever given to you? Master your fears, not the absence of them. Best advice you’ve given? You are exactly where you are supposed to be. Everyone has their own path. Embrace the path you are on and find happiness with what you’ve been given. Earliest memory? Taking boat rides and going fishing on Ginger Creek with my dad, using canned corn for bait because I didn’t want to hurt the worms (or touch them!), and singing songs with my very musical and beautiful mom. When you wake up, you? Drink a huge glass of water, followed by coffee, then a fresh fruit/veggie/protein smoothie. Feed the dogs and take them on a walk, followed by hot yoga at my go-to studio, Next Yoga in Elmhurst. Before bed, you? Wash my face, take my vitamins, brush my teeth, and say a prayer. What’s on your bookshelf? The Flavor Bible and about 1,000 cookbooks and various food publications. You can’t live without? My family and my dogs. Love to escape to? A Bali yoga retreat or Giraffe Manor in Kenya. Advice you would give to your younger self? You are enough.
WHEN IN THE COUNTRY
Your style is? Boyfriend jeans and a fitted, V-neck t-shirt or athleisure. Can’t leave the house without? My lululemon water bottle. Driving music? Old school hip-hop. Place to eat? Greek Islands. Shop? Nordstrom, always. Best thing about country? The presence of nature is absolutely No. 1 followed by the slower pace of life, in general, although with my business it never seems very slow. Worst thing about country? Honestly, nothing! Anything I can do in the city; I can do in the suburbs and with the short distance we are to Chicago we get the best of both worlds. The perfect day is? Spending time with my family at my parent’s house, while my nieces and nephew (and dogs) run around in their gorgeous backyard.
WHEN IN TOWN
Your style is? A friend once dubbed me the “Designer Sweats Queen of Chicago.” He said I had a way of making sweats look stylish and cool. When I’m not in comfort-clothes mode, my city style is sporty-cool or boho-chic. Can’t leave the house without? Jo Malone lip balm, Nars tinted moisturizer, and my eyelash curler. Transportation? I always drive regardless of being in the city or the country. I like having the control behind the wheel. Driving music? 2000s playlists. Place to eat? The Purple Pig, Sunda, or Soho House. Shop? Oak Street and the stores in Lincoln Park on Armitage. Best thing about town? The energy. Worst thing about town? Traffic… and crime. The perfect day is? Going out on a boat in the summertime and enjoying the beautiful lakefront with my dogs, followed by a little shopping and dinner/wine at The Purple Pig with my friends.